Apple could be working with BMW on CarKey feature for iOS 14


BMW could be first to support the feature this fall.
Photo: BMW

Apple is working with German car manufacturer BMW to develop a brand-new CarKey feature for iOS 14, according to a new report out Tuesday. It seems BMW could be first to support the feature this fall.

CarKey is expected to make it possible to unlock and even start compatible vehicles using only your iPhone or Apple Watch. It could also allow for key sharing between family and friends.

Apple devices have slowly but surely made it so that we can leave home with fewer things. If you own an iPhone, you don’t need to carry a standalone camera, iPod, handheld console, or even a wallet.

Later this year, iPhone could also start replacing your car key, too. References to a brand-new CarKey API first surfaced in an iOS 13.4 beta back in February; now leaked iOS 14 code reveals more.

iOS 14 leak reveals CarKey efforts with BMW

Apple is developing the feature with BMW, which is likely to be the first car manufacturer to support CarKey this fall, reports 9to5Mac after obtaining that leaked code ahead of its public release.

BMW in a press release last December referenced plans for a “keyless” method of locking, unlocking, and starting its cars — which it dubbed the Digital Key. It teased “a global technological transformation being shaped and led by The BMW Group.”

“The Digital Key has the potential to enable a range of use cases that are not possible with a classic vehicle key, due to the technological advantages of smart devices,” the release read.

BMW also revealed some key features, like the use of a dedicated security chip that works independently of a phone’s operating system, allowing access to a vehicle even if the smartphone’s battery dies.

BMW won’t deny CarKey involvement

Obviously Apple won’t comment on these plans, while a statement BMW provided to 9to5 does not confirm its involvement. Interestingly, however, it does not deny any involvement, either.

“Please understand that at this point we cannot confirm your request nor give you further details,” the statement read.

Another tidbit from BMW’s earlier press release notes that the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC) would be responsible for standardizing the Digital Key to ensure compatibility across the board.

Apple is a member of the CCC — alongside the likes of Audi, General Motors, Huawei, LG, Samsung, and Volkswagen.

Some Digital Key features already available

BMW, and some other vehicle manufacturers, already offer Digital Key technology using companion smartphone apps that can lock, unlock, and start your car. But the future of the Digital Key promises more.

You won’t need to install a companion app to use your smartphone as a car key, and you won’t need to take your device out of your pocket. Like modern car keys, it will work so long as your phone is in range.

To enable this, future Digital Keys — and likely CarKey — will rely on Bluetooth Low Energy combined with Ultra Wideband technology, which Apple baked into the iPhone 11 lineup last fall.